Editor’s Note: Founding Points Co-Editor Trysh Travis wraps up 2021 for us and gives a preview of what’s to come on Points in 2022. See you in the new year!
As another Covid year closes out, Points readers may find themselves wondering whether a historical perspective on alcohol and drugs is really useful—or even possible, given the unprecedented nature of our lives right now. Maybe critique is overrated and use and abuse is where it’s at?
Points is happy to promote this Call for Papers for a special issue of the journal Implicit Religion, focused on “Religion, Spirituality and Addiction Recovery.” Guest Editors: Dr Wendy Dossett & Liam Metcalf-White This special issue of Implicit Religion engages critically and theoretically with the language of religion and spirituality as articulated within different presentations …
Editor’s Note: In this, his last response to our roundtable on his work, Glenn C. responds to Jackie B. and her thoughts on how performance can extend the nature– and enhance the effects– of AA History.
“Glenn has insisted from the moment we first met in San Antonio that I am a historian. In the foreword to my second play, a history of the Twelve Traditions called Our Experience Has Taught Us, Glenn described me as a historian of ‘the new generation.’ [Nevertheless] for many years during our correspondence, I would counter that I was just a storyteller.”– Jackie B.
Modern western history writing was begun by a classical Greek historian named Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 B.C.) who coined the word “history” when he wrote his great work on the battle of Thermopylae, and the first Marathon runner, and the other famous events of the Persian wars. The Greek word he used to describe what he had written was the term historia. This originally meant inquiry or research; it came from the Greek word histôr, which meant a wise person, a person of knowledge, a good judge who understood moral right and wrong. So a historia was a research work which told exactly what had happened, with an implicit internal value system which made wise judgments as to who the praiseworthy people were, and who had fallen short. 
The English word “history” came from that Greek word, but so did the word “story,” which was originally just a shorter form of the word history. In modern English, a history is a collection of stories put together in a continuous narrative, with logical causal connections tying everything together. Now I would like to make an observation here — one that is a bit over-generalized, I am sure, but nevertheless one with an underlying truth to it.
When Jews get together to talk about spirituality, they tend to be much less interested in philosophical theology than Christians. What they do love to debate and argue about is the Law, the Torah, the difference between good behavior and bad behavior down to the minute details. Christians on the other hand will literally torture, imprison, and even kill one another over fine points of philosophical theology. Was Jesus Christ homousios (of the same essence) as God the Father? Or only homoiousios with an i (of a similar essence) to the Father? Or merely homoios (similar) to the Father? When we recite the Nicene Creed, do we say that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified” (as in the Roman Catholic Church), or do we say (with the Eastern Orthodox Church) that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” leaving out the words “and the Son”? We had Catholics and Orthodox Christians killing one another other theological issues like that in the Balkans not that many years ago.
Editor’s note: Today Glenn C. responds to Bill White’s discussion of his book about the varieties of AA experience across the color line. Next up: his thoughts on the recovery plays of Jackie B.
William L. White is the author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America (orig. pub. 1998, 2nd ed. 2014), the classic history of treatment and recovery programs, covering the entire course of modern American history since its beginning. I first met him at the 6th National A.A. Archives Workshop in 2001, where I was on the planning committee, and he was the keynote speaker. After hearing him in person, I was so glad we had chosen him as our main speaker — it was the most fascinating and eye-opening talk on the general history of recovery in America I had ever heard. And Bill himself is a wonderful person. Close to Ernie Kurtz, he played a valuable role as one of the stabilizing figures in the AA History Lovers during the last two or three years of Nancy Olson’s life. And it was Bill who presided over Ernie’s memorial service in April of 2015 at Dawn Farm in Ypsilanti.
His book, Slaying the Dragon, made it clear that a really good and thorough history of A.A. would have to supply material about the context in which the new A.A. movement had developed. Nothing historical comes into existence out of a complete vacuum, and in A.A.’s case, there was a long history in the United States of trying various methods for dealing with both alcoholism and drug addiction. Some of these had a strong influence on early AA principles and methods — and also on struggles and controversies in which AA became involved later on, as we can see from Nancy Olson’s book With a Lot of Help from Our Friends. Parts of Bill White’s book and parts of Nancy Olson’s book could be read quite profitably in conjunction with one another. As Bill White says, we need to look at the history of early black A.A. in the context of the broader social and political movements in which it occurred.
WASHINGTON, D.C. Of the three earliest black A.A. groups, the social and political background of the Washington, D.C. group was the clearest. It was founded by Dr. James C. Scott, Jr., who had earned both an undergraduate degree and an M.D. from Howard University, one of the two top historically black universities. Dr. Scott, in other words, was an educated black man of the professional class who was trained at one of the major twentieth century centers for the black revolution which arose in the United States during the twentieth century.
Editor’s Note: Today we feature the second response by Glenn C. to his interlocutors in our roundtable. Stay tuned for more this Thursday!
We would be severely disparaging of scholars in American History and American Studies if all they ever published about the period of the American Revolution were biographies of George Washington. This is not to minimize the importance of the first president, but there were many other people who also made major and necessary contributions. And yet AA history studies has at times tended to focus so much on Bill Wilson and his small circle of close associates, that one has to look far for studies on many other people and topics.
Rich Dubiel’s 2004 book The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous, was however one of the major works which endeavored to significantly broaden the history of the AA movement.  I have tried to contribute to the wider history of AA myself in some of the books I have written and in the materials I have posted on the Hindsfoot Foundation website. So I was thrilled when Ernie Kurz had Rich contact me, and I realized that Rich and I were like-minded souls in so many ways. His book expanded my own horizons enormously. I tremendously enjoyed every minute of getting the book ready for print. And it was a book that was going to have an impact.
The first bombshell that Rich’s book dropped was when he proved that the “orthodox” or traditional AA answer to when Rowland Hazard III was psychoanalyzed by Carl Jung — 1931 — could not possibly be correct. He showed from a detailed analysis of correspondence and financial records in the Hazard family papers that there was no time in Rowland Hazard’s busy schedule during 1931 in which he could have spent an extensive period in Switzerland undergoing treatment by Jung. What made this a bombshell was that if Rowland could not have gone to Jung in that year — the date given in all the older AA literature — then did he in fact undergo treatment by Jung at all? Was the whole story only a myth?
Editor’s Note: To round out our Points Roundtable on the contributions of AA historian Glenn C., we turn to the man himself! Over the next week, we’ll post Glenn’s replies to the pieces that Art S., Rich Dubiel, Bill White, and Jackie Bedzinski have published here in the last month. Our series will take us right up to Valentine’s day– at which point, everyone in America is going to need to stop loving Glenn and shift their affection to other, more properly commoditized objects!
Arthur S. played a truly major role in one of our most important A.A. archival resources, the AA History Lovers web group (the AAHL).  At its height, this site had almost 3,000 listed members from all over the earth, including the United States, Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Mexico, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, and India, to name just a few of the far flung lands where it had members. But the actual number of people who were affected by the web group was far higher. There were many who read the group’s postings on a regular basis without having signed up on the membership list, since anyone who had a computer and access to the internet could read all the messages.
At least 90% of the people who had authored the best books on AA history were members of the AAHL, as were at least 90% of the top archivists, rare book specialists and other historical researchers in the field. The web group quickly gained a reputation as the most dependable single source of historical information about A.A. If you wanted to find out what the real experts said — the most knowledgeable and competent scholars and researchers in the field — the AA History Lovers would give you the best-documented and most up-to-date information known. And it would also usually be one of the first places to publish information about newly discovered documents and facts, along with notices of the most recent publications on AA history. 
Editor’s note: Today sees the final installment of the Points tribute to AA historian Glenn C. Commentator Jackie B. graduated in 2002 with a degree in Theater and Performance Studies from U.C. Berkeley. Sober since 2006, she is the founder and Artistic Director of Recovery Works Theater (RWT) in San Francisco. Her work has been …
Editor’s Note: Today’s tribute to the work of AA Historian Glenn C. comes from leading recovery historian William L. (“Bill”) White, Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems. Readers of Points will recognize Bill as the author of the definitive history of recovery in the U.S., Slaying the Dragon, and the more recent Recovery …